03 5381 6500

Detailing home learning, work impacts

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WIMMERA Development Association is seeking volunteers to participate in a study about the impacts of working and learning from home during the coronavirus health crisis.

Health advice moved the operation of many businesses and organisations into homes in March, while Victorian schools delivered education for many students remotely when term two resumed in April.

Wimmera Development Association is the peak advocacy body behind many major, emerging projects in the region. It supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.

The association’s executive director Chris Sounness said the study aimed to understand and document the challenges of this period.

“Many children are feeling that it’s very hard for them to get a clear understanding of expectations while they are learning from home, they aren’t receiving the feedback they want and the structure, or lack of structure, is challenging,” Mr Sounness said. “Parents are often trying to work full-time while providing a learning environment for their children, and they feel they are letting people down when they make choices about work or their child’s schooling.

“Some children are totally disengaged. Then there are some children who are finding remote learning far better environment for them to learn. One size does not fit all.

“When the time comes that restrictions have eased, we need to ensure people feel supported, and we need to understand what resources the Wimmera and southern Mallee needs to put in place to ensure everyone can achieve the best they can.”

Mr Sounness said the study would investigate the impacts of this period on mothers.

“Families are struggling to get the workload right when both parents are working from home and the children are learning from home – how do they support their kids and deliver outcomes for work at the same time?” he said. “Many mothers are feeling an increased burden compared to a normal working environment and that has significant personal and flow-on impacts to families and the wider community.”

Mr Sounness said participation in the study was voluntary and responses would remain confidential.People must be involved in learning from home or supervising learning from home to be eligible. He said people could text their first name and a contact phone number to 0491 628 338 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to register their interest. Participants will be contacted to arrange an interview, lasting about 20 minutes.

The study is one element of the work Wimmera Development Association is undertaking to address existing needs across the Wimmera and southern Mallee and the issues the coronavirus health challenge has exposed or exacerbated.

Mr Sounness said people seeking assistance could phone Uniting’s Wimmera on 1800 195 114. Students can speak to their teacher or school’s wellbeing officer for learning guidance; or contact eheadspace on 1800 650 890 for mental health support. In an emergency, contact 000.

Internet connectivity under scrutiny

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UNDERSTANDING the impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis on internet connectivity is the focus of a new survey.

Wimmera Development Association is calling on residents of the Wimmera and southern Mallee to test the speed of their home or mobile internet service between May 1 and 15. Results and feedback provided to the association will help paint a picture of the disadvantage the region is experiencing – particularly exacerbated by people working and learning at home.

Household access to the internet is generally poor across the Wimmera. An Addressing Regional Disadvantage – Infrastructure Assessment Framework report shows about 30 per cent of residents do not have access to the internet at all, compared to the Victorian average of 17 per cent.

The association’s executive director Chris Sounness said people deserved better.

“Our IT infrastructure has been tested like it has never been tested before,” Mr Sounness said.

“In the Wimmera and southern Mallee region, we tend to have connectivity challenges compared to other regions generally. This survey is a chance to document how we stack up – assessing the speed for downloads and uploads compared to what we actually pay for.”

Mr Sounness said collecting and collating the data was a vital step in the association’s advocacy.

“The data collected will be distributed to key stakeholders and used to advocate to improve services for our region,” he said.

“In a post-COVID world, telecommunications infrastructure and importance of its suitability for work and education is only going to increase. We need to ensure our infrastructure is fit for purpose, and competitive with other parts of Australia.

“The Wimmera and southern Mallee is a great place to live – and to remain a great place to live, we need telecommunications infrastructure that delivers to all residents and all parts of our region.”

Mr Sounness said people could participate in the survey as many times as they wanted, and the process was a simple click of a button.

An online test will assess the participant’s internet speed – requiring one test for 3G, 4G or 5G mobile internet; and three tests at staggered times throughout the same day for a home internet speed assessment.

“The more data we get, the richer the picture it will draw,” Mr Sounness said. “Currently some people are commenting that their service seems to be struggling to keep up with extra demands – and this is our chance to understand just how much pressure that is.

“We need to support anecdotes with data.”

The survey is open to all residents between May 1 and 15.

Mr Sounness said people wanting to complete the home internet speed survey could visit https://form.jotform.com/201118906587863

People wanting to complete the mobile internet survey can visit https://form.jotform.com/201191468111850

Wimmera Development Association is the peak advocacy body behind many major, emerging projects in the region. It supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Latest Information

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Investment forum in the pipeline

PROMOTING growth opportunities in the Wimmera to reach a $5 billion economy is a focus for the region’s peak advocacy body.

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said the region had a $3.3 billion economy – but the community should no longer accept business as usual.

He said a $5 billion economy within a decade was achievable – but community leaders needed to ensure they considered the potential for population growth within a changing climate that was posing significant challenge.

Preliminary planning stages are underway for an investment forum aimed at showcasing the Wimmera to its residents and to people and businesses who might invest in the region.

Mr Sounness said the forum, to occur within the next 12 months, would showcase investment opportunities in the region such as renewable energy and mining, and in key employment areas and support networks.

“Businesses – including those that exist locally and those that might invest in the Wimmera – need to be ready to deal with the changing environments in many definitions of the word,” Mr Sounness said.

"Opportunities around energy, for example, are huge, and there are ways to create it and use it. That leads to more job opportunities and more careers for people here.

“This investment forum will help tell those stories and share the opportunities to set us on the path to becoming a $5 billion economy.”

Mr Sounness said people should aspire to live in a region they wanted and deserved.

“Everyone in the Wimmera and southern Mallee are looking for a great place to live, with a healthy and productive landscape. They want a natural environment that is healthy and attractive and want the opportunity to get ahead,” he said.

“But what does that look like in 10 years’ time? We all have the power to shape what that looks like and we need to show leadership and aspiration in developing that strategy.”

Grampians New Energy Taskforce (G-NET)

GNET welcomes $370m investment recommendation for Western Victoria

19th July 2019

G NET LogoGrampians New Energy Taskforce (GNET) welcomes the release of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Project Assessment Conclusions Report (PACR) and is certain the strategic investment into Western Victoria’s transmission network will deliver significant economic and social benefits to the Grampians region and bringing it a step closer to achieving zero emissions.
The report released today is the third and final step in the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission (RIT-T) process. It provides recommendations for minor and major upgrades of the Western Victorian transmission network that will ensure future power-system capabilities and expand the diversity and availability of supply to the market, reducing the cost of power for consumers.
GNET Chairman Stuart Benjamin recognises that this is a great moment for renewables in the region and an investment into Western Victoria’s transmission network will go a long way toward helping develop a zero-carbon economy.
“A $370 million investment to strengthen the transmission network across Western Victoria to build a network that supports current and new energy developments is incredibly exciting for GNET.
“Adequate transmission capacity is critical to deliver benefits for both energy producers and consumers now and into the future.
AEMO short and long-term recommendations ensure that more green power can enter the network and electricity costs can be reduced.
“Western Victoria is already a hub for renewable energy developments and the state needs a network that can handle current and new large-scale wind and solar developments that are planned for the area in the coming years,” said Mr Benjamin.
This report provides the greenlight required for a statewide infrastructure program to begin. AEMO is undertaking a competitive process to appoint a successful tenderer to design, build, own and operate the new infrastructure.
“GNET looks forward to working with the approved tenderer and AEMO to help facilitate this important piece of state infrastructure and ensure the needs of industry and the community are met,” said Mr Benjamin.
Committee for Ballarat is working in partnership with the GNeT on developing a Regional Roadmap to Zero and CEO Mr Michael Poulton can see the regional benefits that will result from this transmission network upgrade.
“These investment recommendations in AEMO’s report will directly and positively impact the Grampians, Central Highlands and Wimmera regions, and result in long-term economic, social and environmental benefits.
“The flow-on effects of a project of this size will be in employment, economic growth and training and development opportunities, these are real benefits that will be felt across our communities for years to come,” said Mr Poulton.

Grampians: Decarbonising Victoria

4th July 2019

The Grampians region of Western Victoria is developing a Roadmap to Zero Emissions (R2Z) for supercharging the renewable energy system in Australia. The project will underpin new jobs and the decarbonising of Victoria.
The Grampians New Energy Taskforce (GNeT) has commissioned the Victorian based and nationally recognised think tank group; Beyond Zero Emissions to develop Australia’s first regionally focused ‘Roadmap to Zero Emissions’ (R2Z). The R2Z will envision and guide the decarbonising of the complete Grampians region, which includes Ballarat, Central Highlands and Wimmera Southern Mallee.
GNeT have been working with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AENO) who have now recognised the Grampians region as one of Australia’s key renewable energy zones. AEMO anticipates that 5,000 MW of wind and solar renewable energy could be supplied to the national electricity grid from this part of Western Victoria by 2025.
GNet Chair Mr Stuart Benjamin says that while there are currently over $3 billion worth of wind and solar construction projects in planning or under construction in the Grampians region, creating over 2,000 construction jobs that are secure for the next three years, what next.
“What happens next, what else can we do to not only be 100% renewable but also a leading zero-carbon region in the future?
How can we leverage long-term regional benefit and new jobs by supporting the transition of the grid to a renewable energy system?
“The R2Z will help us think further ahead and explore how we can develop a zero-carbon economy to benefit our region while supporting all Victorians to reduce carbon emissions,” said Mr Benjamin.
Beyond Zero Emission plans to deliver a ‘For Discussion’ version of the R2Z or Grampians Roadmap to Zero Emissions for comment and consideration by late August 2019.
The Roadmap will assist Western Victorians to understand and influence renewable energy options as well as contribute to, and benefit from, an improved energy system and a more secure zero-carbon environmental future for all Victorians.
GNet is inviting Western Victorians to contribute their ideas, concerns and comments to the Roadmap via an online portal - https://engage.vic.gov.au/regional-renewable-energy-roadmaps/grampians-r2z
Committee for Ballarat in partnership with the GNeT is managing the Roadmap development by Beyond Zero Emissions. The project is being funded by the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning largely via the Victorian Government’s New Energy Job Fund.
Committee for Ballarat’s CEO Mr Michael Poulton says the Roadmap is an exciting opportunity to support a localised vision of a zero emissions and Committee for Ballarat is delighted to be supporting Grampians New Energy Taskforce.
“The work of the Taskforce is both unique and crucial in helping to shape the environment in which we live and work,” said Mr Poulton.

Wimmera Weather Radar back on track

By Dean Lawson

Experts responsible for installing three new weather radar stations in Western Australia’s farming wheatbelt will work on a similar project in the Wimmera-Mallee.
They will be part of a team that starts work on a Wimmera Doppler Weather Radar Project.
A project working group has ordered the radar and expects to shore up details surrounding its location in the next month.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Ralph Kenyon said the association was working with the Bureau of Meteorology and Agriculture Victoria on the project.  MORE…

For more information abouth the Western Australia project follow the link below.


For background information on the Wimmera Weather Radar project see the following article


Wimmera River injects $4.75 million into local economy


Wednesday March 21, 2018


DSCN1685Wimmera River injects $4.75 million into local economy

A study into the value of water for the environment reveal the Wimmera River contributed $4.75 million to the economy in 2017 with fishing competitions providing major boosts.

Last year's Horsham Fishing Competition on the Labour Day weekend injected around $400,000 into the region and Jeparit’s Easter event, $144,000.

Horsham Fishing Competition committee president Adele Rohde, speaking after the successful 2018 event, said information in the report was critical to the sustainability of the annual event.

"As a mostly volunteer committee, we don't have the resources or expertise to undertake this kind of detailed research and having that data is critical to us being able to attract support for future fishing comps," she said. 

"This year's long weekend included a lot of events around the fishing comp, creating a carnival type atmosphere in the town, and it's fantastic to see the people coming here to enjoy our beautiful river and all that is on offer in Horsham."

Wimmera Development Association has released the figures after further analysis of 2017 results from the Wimmera Southern Mallee Socio-Economic Value Recreational and Environmental Water study.

Wimmera CMA chief executive David Brennan said this analysis provided valuable information about water for the environment, which plays a key role in maintaining river health so activities like fishing competitions can occur.

“Although this study is still in its infancy, it’s exciting to read through the results and hear it direct from the local community and visitors from afar what the Wimmera River means to them.”

The Wimmera River analysis gives researchers baseline evidence for comparison during the four-year life of the study. Analysis also shows:

  • The river contributes over $2.5 million annually in physical and mental health benefits.
  • Fishing is the most popular activity (23.8%) followed by attending events (17.7%) and just relaxing (17.6%).
  • Walking, running and exercising along the river were the activities people participated in most frequently.
  • Horsham, Dimboola and Jeparit river users exceed Australian Government recommendations of five hours physical activity each week, with a weekly total of 8.4 hours.

WDA executive director Ralph Kenyon said the findings provided critical data for future investment and development of Wimmera River sites. One example is plans for a $3-million cycling-walking-camping trail, from Dimboola to Lake Albacutya near Rainbow.

“This study is giving us a better understanding of shared benefits from water for the environment including economic and social benefits,” Mr Kenyon said.

“It allows us to demonstrate the local and regional impacts water has in our region to help attract funding and other support for developing infrastructure and services. It also shows that previous investments such as the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline, which provides a secure supply of water for the environment, continue to reap many rewards.”

WDA is coordinating the socio-economic research of 24 waterways in partnership with Wimmera CMA, GWMWater and six Wimmera Southern Mallee councils. The project is largely funded through the Victorian Government’s Water for Victoria initiative with contributions from councils and GWM water.

2017 findings estimate the 24 surveyed waterways provide a total annual economic contribution of $27.5 million, attracting more than 437,000 visitors.

  • WDA encourages people to contribute to Stage 2 of the project by visiting

https://wda.org.au/ and completing the online survey before March 31.

  • Download the full report of the Socio-Economic Value of Environmental Water, Wimmera River Sites 2016-17 hereWimmera River Economic Value


End of release


Stage two of water study kicks off in the Wimmera Southern Mallee

IMG 4621New research into the economic and health benefits generated by waterways in the Wimmera Southern Mallee is about to enter its second stage.

The socio-economic research by Street Ryan plans to repeat its assessment each year up to 2020. Last year’s research revealed the mental health benefits and economic income generated from rivers, weir pools and lakes to Victorians across the region. The report, which may provide a benchmark for other research across the state, found that water provides a critical outlet for physical and mental relaxation, improving the overall health and wellbeing of residents and visitors – more important than ever during times of drought.

Last year’s research commissioned by Wimmera Development Association (WDA) and funded by the Andrews Labor Government found that participation in recreational water activities in the region saw a total cost saving of more than $8.5 million dollars to both the health and mental health sectors in 2016-17. The study highlighted that more than 437,000 locals and visitors visited the 24 waterways analysed in the Wimmera Southern Mallee region in 2017 with a total economic benefit of $27.5 million.

Water for Victoria, recognises the recreational value of water to communities and the role water plays in helping sustain resilient, strong and healthy communities. New water legislation champions the requirement for water managers to consider the benefit and values of recreational water to communities. As part of this recognition, we have recently committed to fund works at Green Lake at Sea Lake so the whole community can gain from the benefits recreational water brings.

The Labor Government is also strongly supporting recreational fishing through our Target One Million plan.

This year’s study will go into more depth to understand the health benefits of the region’s waterways. The project will undertake surveys and collect data from across the region at locations where individuals and groups enjoy our lakes, rivers and weir-pools for recreational activity. It will also assess some waterways not previously included such as Lake Toolondo. Online interviews will be able to be completed by the community from January 1st to March 31st via the Wimmera Development Association website (www.wda.org.au).

This project involves a cooperative effort with local government and local community groups to catalogue the various benefits recreational and environmental water in rivers, weir pools and lakes provide to towns in the region and try and quantify them in terms of social and economic benefits. For example the Jeparit Fishing Competition brings substantial financial benefits with visitors coming from around Victoria. Various camp grounds adjoining lakes attract campers and fishers from both within and outside the region.

This research will help understand where investment to develop infrastructure and services associated with recreational water is needed.

For more information contact:

Wimmera Development Association   

(03) 5381 6500     This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Western Passenger Rail

WPRMore than 110,000 people live in Western Victoria, with only limited access to passenger train travel.

A further 60,000 people living in south east South Australia could also benefit from improved connectivity through Victoria to provincial and capital cities.

Regional Councils have recognised the need for improved public passenger services for many years. A recent detailed study commissioned by eight Western Victorian Councils proved there is significant demand for improved public transport and linkages to Ballarat and Melbourne.

The Western Rail Project is seeking:

  • More passenger rail services between Ararat and Melbourne
  • The return of passenger rail services to other parts of Western Victoria, including Horsham and Hamilton
  • Extra coach services to improve connections between road and rail services
  • Upgrades to all operating rail stations in Western Victoria to ensure they are accessible to disabled and elderly people.

For more information CLICK HERE